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Video: Obama Appeals Court Nominee — Goodwin Liu – on Reparations for Slavery

Morgen on March 22, 2010 at 9:49 pm

Flying a bit under the radar with all the focus on healthcare reform, late last month the President nominated Berkeley law professor Goodwin Liu to the Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals. Ed Whelan over at NRO is a definitive – and far superior – source for opposition research on Liu’s nomination, but suffice it to say that Liu’s views on the malleability of the Constitution, social and racial justice, and the role of the federal government in education, to name just a few issues, place him quite a bit left of center. Also, while Liu is only 39 years old and has very limited experience practicing law, he is viewed by many liberals as a strong candidate for a SCOTUS nomination down the road. So he is attracting a fair amount of attention.

With Professor Liu’s Senate hearing scheduled for this Wednesday (3/24), I thought I would look around and see if I could find anything which would shed some further light on his core beliefs which may affect his suitability for a lifetime judicial appointment. Lo and behold I came across a panel Liu participated on in 2008, discussing a PBS documentary entitled “Traces of the Trade: A Story From the Deep North“. I have not seen this film, but apparently it is the saga of a New England woman (the filmmaker) who had discovered that her ancestors were the largest slave-traders in U.S. history. In the clip I have extracted below, Liu is responding to a comment by fellow panelist James. A Joseph, the former Ambassador to South Africa, who had asserted that ”racial reconciliation” will ultimately only be possible if reparations are part of the discussion. Here’s Liu comment in response:

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Partial Transcript:

So what I would do is I think I would draw a distinction between a concept of guilt, which locates accountability in a sort of limited set of wrongdoers, and on the other hand a concept of responsibility. Which I think is a more broad suggestion that all of us – whatever our lineage, whatever our ancestry, whatever our complicity – still have a moral duty to…make things right. And that’s a moral duty that’s incumbent on everybody who inherits this nation regardless of whatever the history is.

And I think to add one more point on top of that, the exercise of that responsibility…necessarily requires the answer to the question, “what are  we willing to give up to make things right?”. Because it’s going to require   us to give up something. Whether it is the seat at Harvard, the seat at Princeton…or is it going to require us to give up our segregated neighborhoods, our segregated schools. Is it going to require us to give up our…money? It’s going to require giving up something.

(Original video source is no longer available – full archived copy can be downloaded here.)

So much for post-racial America!

Now, I assume these views would probably not be considered out of the mainstream at Berkeley, and given the history of the Ninth Circuit, Liu would probably fit right in there as well. However, given that a majority of Americans are strongly opposed to racial quota systems in schools and the workplace (much less the wholesale re-distribution of wealth as implied by his comments), I think Liu should be pressed to elaborate further on these views. Frankly, given his long track record advocating for “restorative justice” of one sort of another, I do not see how his decision making could remain unbiased with any relevant cases that would come before him. As they inevitably would.

Of course that the President would nominate someone with such extreme views is not a surprise. Obama, remember, once expressed his belief that the Warren court had not gone far enough to establish positive rights dealing with social justice and the re-distribution of wealth. In essence the President and Professor Liu are ideological soul-mates.

The President is entitled to nominate whomever he wishes to the courts. But the Senate has an equally important role to play in advice and consent of the President’s nominees. Given the way health care reform has been maneuvered through Congress (putting it lightly), I would expect Senate Republicans to oppose the President on just about anything at the moment. Certainly I have to believe that they will strongly oppose – and likely filibuster – a nominee with such extreme beliefs as this on reparations.

Addendum: Media Matters has attacked this post, suggesting it distorts Liu’s comments. Our point by point response to MM’s nonsense is here.]

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